Amazon has run into unionization attempts before, most recently in Alabama which was ultimately unsuccessful. However, New York is the latest district to call for some unionization efforts, and with some recently leaked audio, the rest of the world can see how Amazon has been handling these situations during their captive audience meetings.
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The audio was posted on Soundcloud and titled Amazon Audio 2 with no history or mention of an Audio 1. Allegedly this was taken from a meeting in New York where the unionization talk has been gaining support. A group calling themselves Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has started in Staten Island which is aiming to represent workers at all four of the Amazon facilities in the area.
Amazon Fear Tactics
In a rather damning expose the people over at Motherboard by Vice have extracted some of the key parts of the audio and showcasing what Amazon employees are being subjected to in these mandatory meetings. A large part of the Amazon tactic is to focus on how unions will charge their members dues or fees in exchange for representation which they claim would damage the relationship employees have with Amazon directly.
They also highlight all of the ways that employees can communicate with Amazon about any thoughts or feelings they may have about working at the company.
“Birthday roundtables is another way we pull associates in during their birthday month. It’s your chance to get a nice treat, do a fun activity, but it’s also a communication time where we can talk about what’s going well, what are some opportunities, and what you want to see more of, and what can we do to create a great culture,”Ronald Edison, Senior Operations Manager, Amazon
Following on from the lecture is where the Amazon representatives opened up the floor for questions from the workers present. The following exchange happened:
“What state are you all from? Where ya’ll from?” one worker asked. “Seriously, I’m asking you.”
“Indiana area,” one of the representatives said.
“Chicago area,” another representative said.
“Connecticut,” another representative said.
“Okay so you guys aren’t from New York…They are flying you out here from Indiana, Connecticut and all that. Got ya’ll staying in hotels, paying y’all’s bread and we are putting the company on our back 10 hours a day, 11 hours a day. They’re taking time away from our breaks. There is no voice here,”Amazon Staten Island Worker
Another worker can then be heard arguing the point as to why unions exist and why so many workers feel like unionization would help them get their voices heard.
“You mentioned all these [mechanisms] that workers have to speak out. And what has Amazon done? Nothing. I’ve been at Amazon for six years, bro. What are we talking about here? The issues that were occurring in 2015 are occurring now. So you talk about using your voice? There has been no change at all. The same amount of personal time. The same amount of vacation time. The same amount of [unpaid time off]. People get fired left and right. People get sick. Amazon didn’t even want to tell nobody about COVID. What are we talking about?”Amazon Staten Island Worker
It appears that the companies attempt at anti-union messaging is beginning to wear thin with their workers who feel that not only are their voices not being heard but if something happens to them and they are unable to hit the productivity targets they will be cast aside and fired without hesitation or compensation for what they have been through.
“If you don’t want a union, you have to start treating people better instead of turning them over at a rate that’s just insane,”
“I work with a 60-year-old woman. Don’t get me wrong. She busts her ass here. She puts in work. This workload is not easy. But what happens when she’s 62 and has terrible back issues because she’s been working a 10-hour day for three years? Are you guys going to pay her medical bills? No, because the second she can’t meet ‘rate’ or doesn’t work for the company, she doesn’t exist for you guys.”
“There’s no medical care after you stop working here even though people sacrifice their legs and their backs. How many people here have gotten terrible injuries from working here? Back issues. Knee issues. They’re coming in for braces all the time, and you guys make all that stuff so incredibly hard.”
“A friend of mine just recently, while she was here, pulled a muscle in her hand, went to a doctor, and went to Amazon. They said ‘oh, it’s not that big of a deal’ and she went back to work. Turns out she tore ligaments in her hand but Amazon was like ‘oh, you can go back to work.’”Another Amazon Staten Island Worker
What Does This Mean For The Future?
The union petition has been withdrawn from ALU due to a number of those who filed union authorization cards have since left the company further alluding to the high turnover at the facilities. However, the ALU has stated that once they receive more they will be filing the petition once again.
The workers in Alabama are also working towards staging a second union election shortly after the National Labor Relations found that the eCommerce giant had interfered so thoroughly with election proceedings earlier this year that they would scrap the initial results for the defeated union election in April.
It sounds like the unionization headache for Amazon is not going away any time soon.
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